This week in history


Cat Madish, Editor-in-Chief

  • On Mar. 3, 1863, Congress passed the Civil War Conscription Cct, also known as The Enrollment Act and the Civil War Military Draft Act. The act required all males between 20 and 45 years old to register, and were then drafted as needed. Those who could pay $300 (equivalent to about $5,800 today) or find a substitute draftee could be exempted from the draft. This act was the first compulsory enlistment of US citizens in American history. This sparked five days of violent rioting in New York, which is known as the New York Draft Riots. This is because the working class felt that only the wealthy could buy a pass to life. Additionally, New York City was not fond of the civil war because it meant that they lost a valuable trade partner. The riots happened all over the country, such as Detroit and Boston, but the deadliest riots occurred in New York City. When the riots first began, they only targeted the local police. Then, they moved to African Americans who were not included in the act. Eventually, the violence spread to white abolitionists and interracial couples. Near the end, rioters had killed 3,000 black citizens and caused millions in damage. The series of riots are known as the deadliest in US history. While it inspired another abolitionist movement that led to the first all-black regiment, by 1965 New York City saw a 20% decrease in the population of black citizens, a devastating loss to the black community.
  • On Mar. 2, 1944, 530 stowaways on a freight train asphyxiated due to carbon monoxide poisoning while stopped in a tunnel near Salerno, Italy. The details as to why it was forced to stop are unclear; the train either had too much cargo, or it was waiting for another train to descend. Either way, the train had stalled, and because of war shortages, the train had been forced to burn low-quality coal substitutes that produced a lot of odorless carbon monoxide. This led the passengers to death, and when they finally got help, rescuers found bodies sprawled along the track. The government, captivated by the war and not wanting to harm Italian morale, failed to report the story even though it was, and still is, one of the most strange as well as one of the worst railroad disasters. In March of 1951, the Italian government finally went public with it because the families of victims had filed 300 lawsuits that demanded $1,600,000 in damages.
  • On Mar. 4, 1944, Louis Buchalter was executed, becoming the first mobster to die by electric chair. Buchalter began his criminal career by robbing pushcarts, where he met his partner in crime, Jacob Shapiro. They began by taking control of unions, soon having control of the New York garment industry. In the 1920s, they moved to bootlegging, gambling, and drugs. Buchalter and Shapiro eventually had a large team of hired killers, leading them to create Murder, Inc., thought to be responsible for up to 1,000 contract killings, contracting as many as 250 hitmen. Buchalter eventually began working with famous mobsters, including Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Dutch Schultz. With them, they were able to control crime throughout the nation. Because of this, Murder, Inc. is known as the country’s largest crime syndicate of the 1930s. However, in 1936, he and Shapiro were convicted of violating antitrust laws. While on the run, one of his trusted colleagues, Abraham Reles, became a government informant in order to avoid execution and ultimately betrayed him by implicating him in the murder of Joseph Rosen.